I took all of my grandparents into Glacier National Park yesterday morning.
We left at 4:45 a.m. in order to beat the crowds and to be socially distanced. It was beautiful — my one set of grandparents had never been to the park and the other had visited only once, nearly twenty years ago.
I believe that mountains have the power to infuse life into each of us, regardless of our age. (Which is perhaps just one of the reasons why I’m infatuated with them.) I saw that spark of life in each of my grandparents yesterday, but especially in my mom’s dad, Grandpa Rieke.
Grandpa Rieke grew up in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state and lived his adolescent and young adult years exploring and appreciating the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. After completing seminary in 1963, he made the decision to leave the mountains and move halfway across the country to Minnesota and has lived on the plains ever since; yet, he’s always held a love for the mountains and has taken nearly every opportunity possible to escape out west to satisfy his undying desire to be in “God’s country.”
A few days ago, he and my grandma boldly decided to purchase train tickets to Montana and ride out west. Since arriving in the Flathead Valley, he seems to have come alive again. And yesterday I was able to see a glimpse of that adolescent boy again — he was back in the mountains, exploring and inhaling the mountain air he grew up on. Despite the fact that it was barely 6 a.m. when we were driving the Going to the Sun Road, he had more energy than anyone else in the car and wouldn’t stop commenting on everything he was seeing along the alpine drive. After strictly quarantining these past four months, he seemed finally free — it was as if COVID didn’t exist.
I am lucky: I’m in my mid-twenties and these past few days I’ve been able to spend time with all of my grandparents who are currently living and breathing mountain air. And just 36 hours ago, I even had the opportunity to HIKE with them in our nation’s *best* national park. (Not that I’m biased or anything.) How cool is that?!
These last couple of days I’ve been coming to terms with the reality that my grandparents are getting older. (A fact that I’ve undoubtedly known all of my life but has especially been hitting me lately.)
What is more, the even greater reality is that none of us are going to live forever — all of us are aging every second of every day, but I think you know what I’m saying: time with grandmas and grandpas must be appreciated because our seconds are undoubtedly limited.
And boy, I am certainly appreciating this time.
A Labor of Love: Art + Life
Don’t let anyone fool you, creating art is a labor of love.
Like anything that is worthwhile, it takes time, intention, and patience.
I’ve created a variety of paintings in the past few years. Some weeks I feel my creative juices overflowing and have the energy to pump out multiple pieces, creating and completing works in seemingly all of my spare moments. And yet, other times, I don’t feel particularly inspired and certain pieces prove to be more of a challenge.
This piece for example: I started it back in March when COVID was first hitting the United States and Walmarts were completely wiped of toilet paper (seems like ages ago.) While quarantining at home, I needed projects to keep me busy so naturally I turned to painting. This particular mountain acrylic became one of my project babies, and yet, throughout the course of the last few months there were multiple occasions when I would find myself staring at it and hate what it was becoming. Since May, brother Luke seemed to ask me daily, “You’re done, right?” To which I would consistently respond, “No, not until I’m satisfied.” That’s the trouble though: as an artist, I’m rarely satisfied. One day I’ll look at something that I’ve created and feel content (and sometimes even pleased), and the next day I’ll look at the same piece and it’s as if I have a brand-new set of eyes because I’ll see x, y, and z needing to be added and/or changed.
Creating art truly is a journey. Which is perhaps why I’m so “drawn” to it... I rarely know what my end result is going to be. Sometimes I’ll have a general image in my head, but usually it comes as I start to play... playing with my paint, my brushes, my fingers, water... and eventually, the end result makes itself known.
Kinda like life I suppose; or, so I’ve come to believe. Many of us are going through life without a clear destination in mind — a fact that I’ve slowly been coming to terms with in recent years. Although I am twenty-five years old, I still don’t have a clear specific goal for my life, something that I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever realize. However, like my painting, I have a general idea of what I want in this life, and because I’m willing to put in the work and enjoy what I have presently in front of me, I am confident that when I arrive at the end of my life, I will have a beautiful, bold, and bodacious painting to look back on... and perhaps I might even feel pleased.
This piece: “Is it finished?” you might be wondering. Technically, yes; I handed it off to its new owner just the other day. And yet, my honest response to such a question is: a piece of art is arguably never finished because there is always work that can be done.
Just. like. anything. And everything.
You can always work on something to perfect it more; and yet, sometimes you have to learn to be satisfied with whatever that “thing” is in the present. Especially in this strange season of COVID and quarantining, appreciate the little moments within this slowed pace of time: time with your pets, your close ones, and engaging in activities that energize you. Take breaks from technology and invest in the real life that is staring you right in the eyes.
Yes, things could be better, but that’s always the case regardless if we’re in a pandemic. So, do the work and appreciate the journey — the highs, the lows, and the path that is paving the way to a beautiful ending, an end goal that you just might not need to know at this point in time.
is currently living life one day at a time in Moorhead, MN where she works on the Marketing Team at Concordia College.